Hearts went back atop the Scottish Premier League on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Dundee United as its Lithuanian owner Vladimir Romanov prepared to increase his stake.
Paul Hartley, Rudi Skacel and Michal Pospisil scored at Tynecastle, while Hearts shareholders Leslie Deans and Robert McGrail agreed to sell to Romanov, who already has the biggest individual stake. The Lithuanian banker is set to increase his stake from 29 to 55.5 percent by buying up the shares owned by the Scottish Media Group and Halifax Bank of Scotland next week.
He says he eventually aims to take his ownership past 75 percent, which means he can take the club off the London Stock Exchange and back into private ownership. With previous leader Celtic not in action until Sunday when it plays at Falkirk, Hearts, which is still looking for a replacement for manager George Burley, went three points clear.
Burley, who led the team to eight straight victories to start the season, left after a disagreement with Romanov. Former England manager Bobby Robson is among the candidates to take over. Defending champion Rangers fell further behind in the title race after being held 0-0 at home by Aberdeen. Alex McLeish's team is now 12 points behind Hearts and eight behind third-place Hibernian.
Hibs scored two goals in the last seven minutes, through Dean Shiels and Garry O'Connor, to win 2-1 at last-place Livingston. Paul Lambert's last-place Livingston led when Greg Strong struck three minutes before halftime. But the two late goals meant that Tony Mowbray's Hibs are four points behind Hearts.
In Saturday's other games, Inverness edged Dunfermline 2-1 and Motherwell drew 2-2 with Kilmarnock, AP reports.